The Equinox this month is astrology’s New Year’s Day. It represents the Sun’s entry into the first minute of the first degree of the first sign; and it bursts upon the scene like buds splitting open in the sunlight.
This is the chart we read to take the pulse of the whole zodiacal year. In the Northern hemisphere it signifies the first day of Spring, officially arriving this year on March 20th at 5:09 PDT.
Springtime for Pluto
Among this chart’s most dramatic aspects1 is a square between the Sun and Pluto, suggesting that undealt-with material — crimes unexposed, scandals unresolved, collective denial not yet confronted — is festering just under the surface of group life. We see here the signature of a wide-ranging malaise. Every one of us who is awake to the current world scene can certainly feel it.
The Pluto-Sun square is an invitation to put our energy into facing The Shadow, both on a personal and a collective level. To work with the Shadow individually is to burrow into the parts of our lives that we know contain repressed material. Pluto is reminding us that if we walk around with toxicity in our system, our life situation will start to feel toxic.
Is there an area of your life that has turned a little skanky? Are there ideas stewing that feel not-quite-wholesome? The houses of your chart being transited by Sun and Pluto will give you clues about those dark corners of the mind and heart. Have you been holding onto something — an attitude, a feeling, a holiday fruitcake — that’s past its expiration date? Whether the decay in question is psychological or quite literal, it is time to eliminate it.
On a body level, this process — though unsavory — is at least easy to identify. When we have ingested food that has gone bad we feel queasy and nauseous, and we instinctively know we have to get rid of it. The physical body, in its wisdom, knows how to handle this necessity; Pluto rules vomiting, the large intestine, the lancing of boils, the withdrawal from addiction and other elimination processes.
On a psycho-spiritual level, detoxing is even more daunting, but if undergone with consciousness can be utterly transformative. The various forms of psychic rot that may become evident during a transit like this are often not easy to admit to, but they point the way to healing the deepest wounds of our being.2
Skankiness in the Collective
Even trickier is the examination of collective unwholesomeness. The Equinox chart for Washington D.C. features Pluto in the third house of communications, squaring a sixth-house Sun — an indicator of unsavory forces in the media. With its diaper-wearing astronaut-stalkers and round-the-clock reportage of OD’d Playboy bunnies, the American mass media would seem to have the Collective Unwholesomeness award all sewn up.
This transit is an example of a cosmic echo: Mercury opposes Pluto in the USA’s natal chart (see http://www.mothersky.com/writing/21_wr_pluto_media.html), establishing a national theme that the Equinox transit brings to the fore. Synchronistically, it arrives on the heels of an unprecedented cultural event in America: that of the mainstream media taking a serious look at itself in the Frontline series “News Wars” that premiered 2/14 on PBS.
From the New York Times’ battles with the White House over NSA leaks to videographer Josh Wolf’s being thrown in jail for refusing to turn over his film of war protesters, the series linked together recent examples of media censorship, complicity and negligence in a historically coherent way, exposing a Fourth Estate in complete crisis.
Pluto resides natally in the second house of the USA chart, the house of business. This is the planet of raw power, and its occupancy here indicates a economic sector whose power is so disproportionate compared to the rest of the society as to be potentially destructive. Pluto’s opposition to Mercury is the signature of the ongoing campaign of control that binds together the powers-that-be and the dissemination-of-information. The two are so tightly yoked these days that it seems laughably anachronistic to imagine that there was a time — recall the very early days of television — when the country’s airwaves were conceived to be not a high-stakes marketplace, but a great commons; a realm of public service.
This opposition in the US chart signals an entrenched feature of group karma that Americans have to understand if they are to turn it around. The transit that begins this zodiacal year is reminding us that the mass media has become a monster — a far-reaching network of implacable forces (Pluto) that bears less and less similarity to the organ of free speech (third house) that Americans are taught to believe they have. The divide between what is supposed to be going on and what is really going on (Saturn opposed to Neptune3) is widening with every month that passes.
Information vs. Informing
The truth is that the information dissemination industry in the USA has ceased to be about informing. It is pretty much common knowledge that what gets broadcast on radio and television these days is a function of which programming brings in the most profit through the delivery to advertisers of mass audiences. Only the most egregiously na�ve viewer will have failed to notice that the content she watches on TV — whether news, entertainment, or the increasingly ubiquitous hybrid of the two: “infotainment” — is driven by commercials.
And as giant newspaper chains gobble up the independent presses and each other (rest in peace, Village Voice) the print media too is slipping out from under the rulership of Mercury (information for the sake of information) and into rulership by Pluto (big business).
Old News and New News
An intriguing subplot of the Mercury-Pluto drama involves the gap between those consumers who use their computers to follow their news and those who rely on network television and newspapers — a gap that is becoming wider at cyber-speed. Saddam Hussein’s recent hanging, a gallows spectacle that riveted the nation for all the wrong reasons, demonstrated the difference with embarrassing clarity — by providing two grotesquely contrasting versions of the event to the two different audiences.
The hanging scene broadcast by traditional media presented a wordless execution steeped in order and dignity. But the cyberspace version, which added in the missing audio, revealed it as a public-relations disaster for the powers-that-be: all over the world web viewers were hearing the fractious catcalls that filled the death chamber and watching the condemned man come off as the martyr in a hideously botched official killing. The corporate news caught wind of the more revealing version only after it had been round and round the web. In a role reversal that will doubtless become increasingly common, the media establishment was forced to use the geeks as a primary source.
The incident is one of many that have been showing up the difference between the Old News and the New News of cyberspace, a difference that goes beyond mere speed in copping scoops. More blatantly than ever before, viewers can see the degree to which corporate organizations rely on Washington-scripted scenarios while bloggers look for the stories behind the spin.
Inevitably, the giant media monopolies are now trying to undermine the rules intended to keep the internet free from corporate encroachment, the latest skirmish in what must strike all lovers of free speech as a David-vs.-Goliath struggle.
Pluto in the 2nd house is, of course, the signature of plutocracy, and its opposition to Mercury in the 8th house links it to corporations. That the USA is a plutocracy of corporate power is not exactly news; but its implications seem not to have been fully absorbed by American consumers of the news. The consensual assumption still exists that by watching these government-linked, profit-driven programs, viewers are being informed.4
In a group chart, Mercury — which rules the pure, unfettered exchange of ideas — is the engine behind public discourse, in theory. If Mercury alone were in charge, a pundit’s credibility would depend upon his or her ability to research and dispatch accurate information. Were these standards applicable to the mainstream media in America, journalists who consistently get things wrong would be replaced. Reporters who uncritically reported the White House’s disinformation about the war in Iraq — and who continue to do so — would be spurned as lousy information-providers. So would the newspapers they work for.
Politicians who publicly bloviate about things they know nothing about would be out of a job. James Inhofe, who called global warming “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people”, would be a laughing stock rather than still senator of the proud state of Oklahoma.
The way it is now, American newsfolk are employed and compensated according to how much public visibility they have, which means how much ratings power they can command (recall the breathless anticipation around Katie Couric’s brief moment of glory). These are Plutonian criteria, not Mercurial ones. The planet of power has so overwhelmed the planet of information in America that spokespersons of the corporate news are groomed — from their selectively chosen reports to their vocal styles — to dampen their audiences’ intelligence rather than to enhance it.
What passes for news “analysis” is a pandering to the most simplistic worldview imaginable: reports are presented in “blue state” -vs.- “red state” terms, as if color-coded for kindergarteners. From time to time, presumably to pique viewer interest, mainstream news programs may throw in an occasional faux-debate between celebrity pundits; but for any viewer not already rendered brain-dead, these charades have no more to do with intelligent dialogue than does rooting for one team or another at a football game.
That the political process plays to the same tune may be harder for believers in American democracy to stomach, but the linkage between Big Media and what we narrowly call “politics” is clearly driven by the same plutocratic forces. More than a year before the next presidential election Americans are finding themselves already inundated with coverage of the fledgling races, which have themselves become a commodity to sell news; and are being milked by the networks for their audience-attracting value as surely as the ever-expanding Christmas season is milked by retailers.
As for the content of these campaigns, at this point in history the cynical American populace understands only too well that whatever gets communicated by a candidate will be the product of a rigidly formalized system of sound bites, poll results and campaign dollars in the hundreds of millions5 (Pluto) — not upon true opinions or anything resembling intellectual rigor (Mercury).
It is no secret that the version of the news that most Americans get is based upon interpretations of current events that derive from the White House and the Pentagon. The fact that real information is unavailable cannot be explained away as the result of a lack of imagination on the part of the news industry. It is not enough to dismiss as unserious the manicured celebrity anchors. Nor is a cynical distrust of everything one reads in the paper — the “It’s all lies anyway” approach — the way to move out of this Plutonian deadlock.
In order to be free of this collective unwholesomeness we must understand the nature of the forces at play.
Propaganda and Pornography
Among the “bastard muses” afflicting American culture, according to Cleanth Brooks of Yale, are “propaganda, which pleads, sometimes unscrupulously, for a special cause or issue at the expense of the total truth…and pornography, which focuses upon one powerful human drive at the expense of the total human personality.”6 Propaganda is mind control (Mercury-Pluto), and is particularly indicated by hard aspects such as the one in the US chart.
Pornography is Plutonian, too, by virtue of its association with sex. But Pluto doesn’t really have to do with sex per se. It has to do with those unvarnished survival urges which, when unleavened by the rest of the chart, manifest in the human animal as an obsession with sex and/or death.
In fact necrophilia is a far more serious example of distorted Pluto in contemporary America than sexual compulsion. The most pervasive form of pornography in which America is currently awash is the mass-produced and mass-consumed violence and gore that has become normative in American pop culture, dampening our instinct to be repulsed by such content and degrading our collective intelligence (Mercury) in the process.7
Both sellers and buyers of these Plutonian products — horror movies, TV shows that legitimize torture, military dolls for little boys, Gov. Schwarzenneggar’s Hummers — insist that they are intended merely to amuse. The manufacturers who profit from the most obscene of this imagery declare that they are just giving the public what they want, an apologia that tries to confer an innocuous aura upon a state of affairs whose flat-out perversity is as obvious as an elephant in the middle of the room.
The presence of Pluto in the third house (everyday matters) this Spring is a call to wake up to the fact that Americans have been hypnotized by an out-of-control business culture to accept and embrace these appalling mental and recreational toxins, rather than looking beneath them at the troubling collective energies at their source.
Calling a spade a spade
Pluto square the Sun in the Equinox chart is a challenge to call a spade a spade. The transit points to where the darkness lies in the group mind; and where, by Natural Law, deep collective self-honesty could lead to a kind of renaissance. Our efforts to honor the transit on an individual level — integrating its teachings per the houses and aspects it forms in our own charts — is our way of contributing to that renaissance.
1 Also significant is the Saturn-Neptune opposition, which has been in play for the past couple of years, and the Jupiter-Uranus square (Bill Streett has an excellent discussion of the archetypal meaning of these aspects at http://www.astro-noetics.com.) In addition, Mars closely opposes Saturn. This chart is clearly inaugurating a period where worms will be crawling out of the can.
2 See the chapter on Pluto Work, Soul-Sick Nation (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/virginia-bell/astrology-politics-washin_b_332252.html).
3 See next month’s America in Transition column in DayKeeperJournal.com.
4 I will be speaking about this aspect of the USA chart in San Francisco on March 29th (see http://www.sfastrologicalsociety.com/murray.php).
5 Jon Carroll: “Clinton is said to have about $14 million in the bank and is seeking to raise about $75 million in calendar 2007. In order to compete, conventional wisdom goes, other serious candidates for the Democratic nomination will also have to raise $75 million. … $75 million times 12 candidates equals $900 million. And that’s just for 2007 (the big push will come in 2008.) All this money will be spent on the events, TV commercials, flyers, buttons, transportation, meals, clothing and pandering necessary to reach out to the ten per cent of the American public who don’t already know how they’re going to vote.” –San Francisco Chronicle 1/07
6 As noted by Bill Moyers, upon receiving the Frank E. Taplin, Jr. Public Intellectual Award on 2/7/07 by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.
7 As Mick LaSalle has noted, “untalented filmmakers who are incapable of generating suspense in dramatic terms (i.e. what will happen to the characters?) fall back on generating suspense by threatening to show the audience something disgusting. …Artistically speaking, that’s cheaper than cheap. [Also], we live in a fairly agnostic age… much of horror depends on fear of the other side, of the afterlife, hell, monsters…If the audience lacks a baseline belief in the afterlife, its terror is limited to garden-variety fear of mortality, which is what the modern horror movie preys on.” –San Francisco Chronicle, 3/11/07